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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by vox on Today at 07:16:45 AM »
Old Nick,
Asking why doesn’t a performative mood exist it's asking why speech acts haven’t been grammaticalized (because being a mood it’s being a grammatical category). I think the main reason is because it wouldn’t be economical.

Many sorts of moods have been identified in different languages throughout the world that one can call “performative”: precative (prayers, requests), commissive (promises, threats), jussive (commands), hortative (encouragements), benefactive (blessings), imprecative (curses, wishing misfortune), optative/volitive (wishes, hopes), prohibitive (prohibitions)…. :
https://glossary.sil.org/term/commissive-modality
https://glossary.sil.org/term/volitive-modality
https://glossary.sil.org/term/directive-modality
So there should be several performative moods, not one. But a language can’t give itself dozens of different morphemes to express each of these speech acts. Most of the time either a few of them are grammaticalized to become a “mood” or one mood is used for different speech acts, e.g. imperative in French as an hortative (Allons manger !), jussive (Sors d’ici !), prohibitive (N’entrez pas !),  precative (Sauvez-moi !).

Your examples are directive speech acts. I have two things to say about that :
1) If ever a “performative mood” existed, technically it couldn’t be limited to the deontic/directive field. The epistemic/assertive field should also be part of it, which means other moods to be taken into account: assumptive, dubitative, deductive, hypothetical … 
2) The illocutionary force of directive speech acts seems to be grammaticalized to become the future tense. Bybee & Dahl states that the future tense comes from a lexical source which is often a movement verb or a word meaning something like “desire”, “intention”, “obligation”. Source : Joan Bybee & Osten Dahl, The creation of tense and aspect systems in the languages of the world, p. 57-58, p. 90-94, pdf available on the internet.
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The major lexical sources for future grams, which have been well documented across numerous examples, are the following three (see Ultan 1978; and Bybee and Pagliuca 1987):
i. An auxiliary verb with the original meaning of 'want' or 'desire', or less commonly a derivational desiderative morpheme, which in turn has as its source a main verb meaning 'want' or 'desire'. Examples may be found in English, Serbo-Croatian, Swahili and Mandarin, to name but a few.
ii. A construction meaning 'movement towards a goal' (such as English be going to), which contains a movement verb in a progressive or imperfective aspect, and an allative component either explicit or incorporated in the verb. Less commonly, a derivational andative construction (whose source is also a verb meaning 'movement towards a goal') may develop into a future gram. Examples may be found in Hausa, Logbara, Haitian Creole, Isthmus Zapotec and many
more.
iii. A verb meaning 'to owe' or 'to be obliged', or more commonly a construction with a copula or possession verb, and a non- finite main verb, such as English to have to or to be to. Examples may be found in the Western Romance languages, the Eastern Kru languages, Korean and
Ecuadorian Quechua. (Bybee & Dahl, p. 90)
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Daniel on September 22, 2018, 06:41:13 PM »
Your examples are certainly convincing that in some circumstances these performatives can be very important and, in those circumstances, frequent. But that still doesn't make them an especially frequent part of the language compared to other forms like imperatives. Again, try doing a corpus study to see. Is it half as common as imperatives? One-tenth? I don't have a good sense of this, but my strong intuition is that they're less common.

To use an annoying phrase, those examples are sort of exceptions that prove the rule: you must come up with exceptional circumstances to show frequent use of these forms. Again, I'm not saying they're unimportant or extremely rare. I'm just saying that other forms typically dominate.

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Could we say the same about languages?
Direct comparisons between biological evolution and linguistic change fall flat once you move beyond surface-level metaphors. Certainly there are some similarities, but be careful applying the analogy too strongly. There are some major differences, such as no sexual reproduction with languages, no clear "survival of the fittest" (more just change based on frequent usage), and so forth.
So, yes, some of what you're saying does seem to translate, but not necessarily based on the same underlying mechanisms.

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In the hypothesis we have a common great ape ancestor it seems to me that these modes must among the primary ones in the course of evolution.
Yes, that makes sense to me too. But one of the fundamental differences with human language today is that it generally goes beyond things like 'alarm calls' and so forth. It's arguably the fact that most of what we say isn't performatives (and similar things) that really distinct identity to human language versus other kinds of animal communication.

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Yet at the origin or my questions is the fact that, after discussions about the topic, I had fun starting an essay on the origin of language in an evolutionary perspective. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t, it’s a taboo.
It's not really taboo. It's that there are many different theories, and most of them are wrong, and we may never know which is right. Speculation is not the same as evidence-based research. That doesn't stop people (even professional linguists, even Noam Chomsky) from speculating and publishing on the topic. So go ahead. And some ideas might have other significance. But it's not really the kind of problem that can be 'solved' or even rigorously debated based on established facts.

As for not being a linguist, don't let that stop you from doing a corpus study of discourse functions. Up to you, of course, but the field is inherently interdisciplinary, and although there are many tips you could get from linguists who have done corpus research, simply coding utterances for their discourse functions (with some margin for error/uncertainty, of course) would not be especially difficult or technical. It would take a significant amount of time, and so the researcher would need to be dedicated to doing it well (and probably across several genres). But you could just take any spoken corpus and get some general results and see where to go from there. For example, these corpora are good and free: https://corpus.byu.edu/
However, for this I suppose you'd need to find a full-text corpus that you could just read through. In that case, search Google to find one that fits your needs. It doesn't need to be an especially large one. In fact, larger would be more difficult for you to code sentence-by-sentence. So find a high quality spoken corpus that is open as a full-text source, and try this out. Questions of frequency are easy to answer methodologically, although aside from word forms and other things easy to search, they can be time consuming with manual annotation. Still, without that, you can't say that performatives are frequent which is an objective, quantitative statement. You can say they are important, but that's qualitative and subjective.
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Old Nick on September 22, 2018, 01:54:50 PM »
Yesterday I was attending a funeral ceremony and I kept listening to the modes of expression used by the priest. The Lord's Prayer for example includes mainly two modes: injunctions to God (imperative mode) and performatives (“Que” + subjunctive in French). It was basically the same for all the speeches during the function.
During sport events the fans’ cheers are also mainly performative.
Protesters and demonstrators use also non-verbal sentences like: “Down with bureaucracy!” that aim at a result.
Politicians, believing they can make things happen and/or just making promises, use massively the performative mode: “With my leadership and confidence-building charisma the economy will grow” Well… it could also be called wishful thinking. ;)

Yes, it's making use of an existing structure while adapting it to a new purpose. This is how almost everything works in language change, and therefore the source for most constructions. You could look to imperatives for some relatively parallel developments, such as some languages using infinitives or infinitive-like forms, others using subjunctives, and so forth. (Notice how for example, Romance languages vary in whether negative imperatives look like imperatives, or some other inflected form like subjunctives, or also often infinitives.)
Right, injunctions are often expressed in a variety of modes besides imperative: “Come here!”, “You come here!”, “Will you come here?”, “You will come here!”, “Here!”, and so on.

I suppose the term you're looking for might be 'multi-functionality', although specifically the phrasing 'economy of means' makes sense too.
I was comparing it with the evolution of species.
Evolution allows the development of functions in a benefit/cost ratio method. Useless organs or traits, or of non indispensable use, like animal pelage, are selected if they come at no or little cost. Yet male ducks, because they have the task of seducing females, display wonderful colors, whereas females are just brown. The latter don’t need to be conspicuous and attractive.
OTOH organs that become useless usually atrophy. In the course of cetaceans’ evolution over tens of millions of years, from close relatives of hippopotamuses, fossils show the regression of their back legs and pelvis until complete disappearing.
Conversely, the increase of the human brain size, an extremely costly organ in terms of development during gestation and during growth and in terms of nutrition on a daily basis means there were immediate benefits in the course of evolution.
Could we say the same about languages?

It is probably more common than we would typically assume. But that doesn't make it more frequent than other functions. That is, imperatives also aren't as common as declaratives (or probably interrogatives either), but they're common enough to have grammaticalized with specialized forms in many languages. As a simple comparison, you could look to see whether performatives are as frequent as imperatives in typical speech. My assumption is that they are not. They're certainly widespread, and in some sense "frequent", but they don't seem to have crossed whatever threshold there is for the grammaticalization of specialized verb forms. You might look at languages where religion or other performative-related acts are more culturally central. For example, the 'jussive' in Arabic could arguably be something along these lines, and Islam is an important factor in the development of Arabic. Similarly, you could look at some languages with highly developed ritual systems/registers to see if they had any special means of expressing these things. That's outside my expertise but an interesting possibility.
I read pieces about experiments in teaching chimps to learn and use a symbolic language, either with ASL or with tokens, and it seems they spontaneously use practically no interrogation in terms of aiming at getting an information (on a cognitive level), seldom use declarative and pretty much use exclamation and imperative: “Fridge! Open! Quick!” In the hypothesis we have a common great ape ancestor it seems to me that these modes must among the primary ones in the course of evolution.

By the way, actually doing a corpus based study of speech acts might be an interesting project. I'm not sure to what extent that has already been explored (if so, and in detail, you might be able to just refer to those numbers, and if not, it might be worth pursuing and even publishing in itself).
It sure would be interesting but I am not a linguist. Yet at the origin or my questions is the fact that, after discussions about the topic, I had fun starting an essay on the origin of language in an evolutionary perspective. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t, it’s a taboo. But, hey!, I am not a linguist! ;)

Quote from: Old Nick
In the different pieces I read about the topic I was surprised that religions and magics are usually not mentioned as examples whereas they do a massive use of performative utterances: prayers, rituals, sacrifices, etc., all aim at getting a gain, at having something done, at changing the course of events, etc.
An important philosophical debate took place in the Middle-Age in Europe from 1280 to 1348 about the power of incantations. The question was : can we act on the matter remotely, just by the power of words ? The participants were debating about something that had clearly something to do with performativity but their approaches were too metaphysics-oriented to say they had found out performativity before the philosophers of the 20th century. Anyway, it’s a fascinating debate, very interesting to read if you want to : Beatrice Delaurenti, La puissance des mots « virtus verborum ». Débats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au Moyen-Age, Cerf (it’s written by a historian).
You can also read this article : Tzvetan Todorov, Le discours de la magie, L’Homme (13/4). He analyses the structure of incantations declaimed to trigger a healing (but Todorov is not a linguist either).
I’ll check them at the library.
It’s interesting they wondered whether performative mode was actually performing. ;)

Nick
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by vox on September 19, 2018, 07:24:52 AM »
Quote from: Old Nick
In the different pieces I read about the topic I was surprised that religions and magics are usually not mentioned as examples whereas they do a massive use of performative utterances: prayers, rituals, sacrifices, etc., all aim at getting a gain, at having something done, at changing the course of events, etc.
An important philosophical debate took place in the Middle-Age in Europe from 1280 to 1348 about the power of incantations. The question was : can we act on the matter remotely, just by the power of words ? The participants were debating about something that had clearly something to do with performativity but their approaches were too metaphysics-oriented to say they had found out performativity before the philosophers of the 20th century. Anyway, it’s a fascinating debate, very interesting to read if you want to : Beatrice Delaurenti, La puissance des mots « virtus verborum ». Débats doctrinaux sur le pouvoir des incantations au Moyen-Age, Cerf (it’s written by a historian).
You can also read this article : Tzvetan Todorov, Le discours de la magie, L’Homme (13/4). He analyses the structure of incantations declaimed to trigger a healing (but Todorov is not a linguist either).
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Old Nick on September 19, 2018, 02:06:30 AM »
I am on the leave for a couple of days. I'll be back to you by the week-end.
Nick
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Daniel on September 19, 2018, 01:24:01 AM »
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Then it’s the same economy of means1 as in evolution. The context is supposed to tell the mode, right?
Yes, it's making use of an existing structure while adapting it to a new purpose. This is how almost everything works in language change, and therefore the source for most constructions. You could look to imperatives for some relatively parallel developments, such as some languages using infinitives or infinitive-like forms, others using subjunctives, and so forth. (Notice how for example, Romance languages vary in whether negative imperatives look like imperatives, or some other inflected form like subjunctives, or also often infinitives.)

I suppose the term you're looking for might be 'multi-functionality', although specifically the phrasing 'economy of means' makes sense too.

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I think it’s much more common than we usually realize. Infants start using performative mode very early: they try to do things and make things happen by speech act. It’s very common in politics and activism too. I was a student at the Sorbonne University in the 60’s. De Gaulle was reigning by his speech. In 68 we beat him by the same weapon.
It is probably more common than we would typically assume. But that doesn't make it more frequent than other functions. That is, imperatives also aren't as common as declaratives (or probably interrogatives either), but they're common enough to have grammaticalized with specialized forms in many languages. As a simple comparison, you could look to see whether performatives are as frequent as imperatives in typical speech. My assumption is that they are not. They're certainly widespread, and in some sense "frequent", but they don't seem to have crossed whatever threshold there is for the grammaticalization of specialized verb forms. You might look at languages where religion or other performative-related acts are more culturally central. For example, the 'jussive' in Arabic could arguably be something along these lines, and Islam is an important factor in the development of Arabic. Similarly, you could look at some languages with highly developed ritual systems/registers to see if they had any special means of expressing these things. That's outside my expertise but an interesting possibility.

--

By the way, actually doing a corpus based study of speech acts might be an interesting project. I'm not sure to what extent that has already been explored (if so, and in detail, you might be able to just refer to those numbers, and if not, it might be worth pursuing and even publishing in itself).
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Old Nick on September 19, 2018, 12:58:44 AM »
Thanks for your quick response Daniel, :)

This is a good and reasonable question.
Thanks for the compliment! ;)

However, my best guess is that it just isn't a frequent enough speech act to typically lead to grammaticalization of a special form of verbs (for example). Indeed, you could argue that English "let" or French "que+subjunctive" or various other expressions are a sort of grammatical mode, with grammaticalized expression, but they're sort of piggy-backing on existing structures.
Then it’s the same economy of means1 as in evolution. The context is supposed to tell the mode, right?

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Performative mode is extremely common in everyday talk yet is there a corresponding grammatical mode?
Widespread, but I wouldn't say especially common.
I think it’s much more common than we usually realize. Infants start using performative mode very early: they try to do things and make things happen by speech act. It’s very common in politics and activism too. I was a student at the Sorbonne University in the 60’s. De Gaulle was reigning by his speech. In 68 we beat him by the same weapon.

Nick

1) I am not sure of the expression in English.
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Morphosyntax / Re: A question about Performativity
« Last post by Daniel on September 18, 2018, 07:54:25 AM »
This is a good and reasonable question. However, my best guess is that it just isn't a frequent enough speech act to typically lead to grammaticalization of a special form of verbs (for example). Indeed, you could argue that English "let" or French "que+subjunctive" or various other expressions are a sort of grammatical mode, with grammaticalized expression, but they're sort of piggy-backing on existing structures.
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Performative mode is extremely common in everyday talk yet is there a corresponding grammatical mode?
Widespread, but I wouldn't say especially common. You could do a study of this to see how often it is used compared to other functions. There are a lot of things in language that don't grammaticalize (or especially don't become new verb forms, etc.), and I just don't think this one is common enough (or difficult enough to express using existing means?) to need something entirely new to develop.

But again, depending on what you mean by "grammatical mode" you could probably already say that's the case.
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Morphosyntax / A question about Performativity
« Last post by Old Nick on September 18, 2018, 03:58:53 AM »
Hi all

I am wondering whether there is in some languages a grammatical mode for Performativity.
The very first example was God’s “Let there be light!”
In French it was translated into “Que la lumière soit !” The structure “Que” + subjonctive is considered to be a form of third person imperative. You would say to someone to transmit the injunction: “Qu’elle vienne me voir !”
In the different pieces I read about the topic I was surprised that religions and magics are usually not mentioned as examples whereas they do a massive use of performative utterances: prayers, rituals, sacrifices, etc., all aim at getting a gain, at having something done, at changing the course of events, etc.

Performative mode is extremely common in everyday talk yet is there a corresponding grammatical mode?

Regards

Nick
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Wow!  So interesting, thank you.  Maybe the family story is true then regarding the Greek great grandmother.  I will keep looking as you suggest, but it's really helpful to have an expert eye to set up the critical questions. 

Many thanks again. 
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